Here we go again.
20222022 has started with a bang in the music industry Down Under. Too bad it’s not the kind of bang we were all hoping for. It turns out not all gigs were created equal. Some are cancelled because of The Rona, and some others don’t fall under certain categories… My predictions have never come true so quickly.
That’s why, this week, I’m forecasting the future with a bit more optimism.
PART 91b OF “AM I EVER GONNA SEE YOUR FACE AGAIN?” A RANDOM COLLECTION OF UNKNOWINGLY OBVIOUS FACTS ABOUT THE AUSTRALIAN MUSIC SCENE
Last Wednesday, I looked into the crystal ball and shared two fairly obvious thoughts regarding 2022 in Aussie music. Firstly, not all live events will go ahead this year, given the circumstances. And secondly, the music biz seriously needs to draw some conclusions in terms of planning, knowing that things are still not looking particularly promising this year.
Things seem to be going very dynamic these days. So I need to admit that an update on my last week’s clairvoyant divinations is needed already.
This one’s actually my favourite. After the NSW government’s “No singing, no dancing in public places” rule that, allegedly, made exemptions for religious and sporting celebrations, some Aussie acts came together to ridicule it. How? The best possible way – they made up a supergroup called Thrillsong.
Interestingly, the same state that announced the somewhat discriminatory regulations, has stepped up its game by coming up with financial aid for event organisers (talking about being bipolar, hey?). The NSW ‘Event Saver’ programme mirrors an initiative by the Victorian government, announced last year.
Although it’s not necessarily ideal for small- and medium-sized gigs, it’s a step in the right direction. Besides, if two states have already acknowledged the problem, chances are the Morrison government will feel obliged to tackle it at the national level.
So yeah, things are still pretty messed up and grim. But they lead me to a couple of hopeful guesses as well.
Artists are creative creatures, after all. And this industry has stayed afloat mostly thanks to their resilience and willingness to adapt. So here are some good things that I reckon will happen (or are already happening) in the music biz Down Under in 2022.
Musos will be more productive than ever
It’s true that the last (nearly) two years have been an utter disaster for musos on many fronts. Lost income from gigs, having to pivot to the virtual world, or not being able to rehearse with all band members in one room are just a few examples of the things they’ve had to face. Not to mention mental health struggles.
Yet, many Aussies have had their most productive time in those challenging days. As strange as it might sound, the musos have now come to terms (well, at least partially) with the fact that cancellations are a very real, albeit unwelcome option. So they’re more prepared for the consequences. And I’m pretty sure this trend will continue in 2022.
Take the album releases. In 2020, there was a general scare that dropping a record would be a total flop since artists couldn’t take them on the road. Several releases were rescheduled, and everybody seemed tricked into thinking that “a single a day keeps the pandemic away”.
But then it turned out that touring is not the only way to boost album sales. TikTok, Twitch, and YouTube surely had something to do with that. So, in 2021, some pretty epic and long-awaited releases saw the light of day. Amongst them were: Tash Sultana’s Terra Firma, Tones And I’s Welcome to the Madhouse, Baker Boy’s Gela, or Amyl & The Sniffers’ Comfort To Me (that I reviewed here).
2022 is looking exciting on that front as well. Only in the first four months of the year, we’ll get new albums by Midnight Oil (18 Feb), Gang of Youths (a week later), The Wiggles (11 Mar), or Northlane (1 Apr). Even Daniel Johns (yep, the ones from Silverchair), who hadn’t been active for several years, is making a comeback in April with a new record, FutureNever.
Another trend that has me on high alert and is very much spearheaded by artists and innovators is the NFT market. No matter how sceptical about the crypto world you are, this is a force to be reckoned with, also in Oz.
That’s simply what happens when creatives representing different forms of art come together. Or when business and music cross paths. It’s not a secret that, as of late, music has been quite a good investment. Streaming services are booming, vinyl is experiencing a second youth, and NFT marketplaces are popping up everywhere.
A twist on that last point is an Aussie-made decentralised autonomous organisation (DAO) called MODA, prepping to create an entire music ecosystem on a blockchain. They advertise themselves as “dedicated to the adoption of Web3 in the music industry”. By the looks of their website, it’s an idea that has already attracted a slew of investors and partners (amongst them musicians, like Deadmau5).
So, believe me when I say this: watch the NFT space in Australia closely (a note to self as well!). You’ll likely be purchasing the next release (whatever it may be) by your fave Aussie artist in that format.
Now, I’m definitely too old for TikTok or Instagram Reels (and I say this with no regrets). But underestimating their impact Down Under would be a huuuuge mistake. It turns out that “Australians spend more time on TikTok than on YouTube”, as per a report from July 2021.
Obviously, several Aussies are killing it on the short-vid platform already, like the power duo, rapper Allday, and electronic-pop princess Memphis LK. They’ve racked up a stunning 456k followers combined. Watch this little movie by Allday to understand how they do it.
If you follow both musos for a while (on other socials as well), you’ll see that they’re heaps good at engaging and connecting with their fans. And TikTok is yet another channel they’ve added to their impressive arsenal of virtual presence.
Other acts, like Peach PRC (who actually started on TikTok) or The Kid LAROI (you know, that guy that has probably the biggest song on the planet right now with Justin Bieber) have 1.8M and 2.8M followers, respectively. Long story short: if you’re not on TikTok, make an effort to be on it, regardless of whether you’re an artist or music fan. So you at least know what the hype is all about.
And speaking of the hype…
Music will become more environmentally-friendly
Here, I need to start with a clarification.
It’s not that music Down Under is particularly hostile to Mother Earth. But the industry around the world has recently been acknowledging that there are some aspects where things are a bit shady. And they could definitely be more sustainable.
Remember cassettes and CDs? Probably not. Which is good because they’re made of plastic. And we all know that plastic = evil. But you might have heard of vinyl. Well, I’ve got news for you. It’s (mostly) plastic as well. Yes, there are innovative methods of making it (i.e. using recycling), but they’re not widely available yet and can be quite costly.
Okay, so let’s stream music. It can’t harm the environment if there’s no physical “carrier” of the sound. Wrong again. Recent studies show that frequent streaming is more damaging to the environment than buying CDs and vinyl. “A viral song has a bigger annual carbon footprint than 500 people”, for example.
That’s because of all the energy that goes into every step of this digital process, from powering the servers storing data, to sending large amounts of it over Wi-Fi, and having a charged device to reproduce it. It turns out that “downloading an album you will listen to repeatedly onto a local hard drive is more energy-efficient than streaming it multiple times”. Crazy, right?
In 2019, I wrote a post about offsetting gigs the same way airlines offset their carbon footprint. I called it “Green Is The New Black“.
To my surprise, one of the biggest Aussie metal bands, In Hearts Wake, has recently released a documentary with the same title. The film strives to get to the bottom of that same idea I discussed in my article. Plus, it tackles the band’s journey to arrive at those conclusions and the difficulties they had to face while making the doco.
Green Is The New Black was screened at the Byron Bay International Film Festival in December 2021. Sadly, it’s not available commercially yet. But you’ll surely convert to being an environmental activist in the music biz once you’ve seen the trailer.
Since we’re on the topic of offsetting, just think about how much energy is used for a gig, let alone a festival. All that gear and instruments won’t power themselves. And substituting lights for candles on stage is a bad idea (in most cases, for sure).
You’d be surprised how many people in the biz realise that. But we’ve pushed those concerns aside for such a long time that the industry as a whole doesn’t have a clue how to change that. That’s why individual efforts and activism of bands such as In Hearts Wake can’t be underestimated.
Other Aussie acts have also committed to including offsetting in their practices. For their touring festival, The Squeeze, Lime Cordiale have recently partnered with FEAT. to introduce a “Solar Slice of $1.00”. It will be taken from each ticket sold and invested in minimising the carbon and waste footprint generated by live events. I truly salute you for this project, Leimbach brothers.
Yeah… but you probably don’t know what FEAT. is, right?
Future Energy Artists = FEAT. is a platform that spearheads campaigns making live music and touring more sustainable Down Under. Its founder, Heidi Lennfer, who is a muso herself (check out Cloud Control), was awarded the ‘Done Good Award’ by triple j in 2019 for that idea exactly. And she’s been recruiting more and more artists to sign up since then. So I’m pretty sure they’ll gain momentum in 2022.
Reaching sustainability is a two-way street, though. So music fans are also encouraged to do their bit in changing the game. Green Music Australia has launched a campaign called ‘Party with the Planet’ where you can pledge to protect the environment at live music events.
In the campaign video, made by various Aussie artists, there’s one sentence that was imprinted in my mind. Allara, a First Nations musician involved in the climate justice movement, says this, “You’re on Aboriginal Land. If you take care of Country, Country will take care of you.”
I certainly hope that her words will guide the music industry Down Under to listen more to Indigenous leaders and activists. Their knowledge and connection to Land can surely help come up with environmentally-friendly ways of rebuilding the industry, especially the live part of it.
Let’s wrap things up here. Ironically, not being able to play or experience live music has opened everyone’s eyes to how precious it is. But we’re also slowly beginning to understand that we can’t continue experiencing it “the old way”. So I’m rooting for all the campaigns that I’m certain we’ll get to know in 2022.
So there you go. Those are my predictions for 2022 in Aussie music. What are yours?
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